• Home
  • /
  • Class Notes
  • /
  • 10208 Cam Carbert growing up on a cattle farm has served him well

10208 Cam Carbert growing up on a cattle farm has served him well

Growing up on a cattle farm has served him well

10208 Cameron Carbert is the Secretary for the Class of 1975. Cam was raised on a cattle farm, near Peace River, Alberta and he graduated from Peace River High School in 1970.

The town of Peace River is situated along the banks of the Peace River, at its confluence with the Smoky River, the Heart River and Pat’s Creek. It is located 486 kilometres (302 mi) northwest of Edmonton. It is an urban community beautiful by nature, diverse by culture, vibrant by choice.

His dad was a proud WWII veteran and always spoke highly of his four years with the Canadian Forestry Corps.  Cam had always thought a career in the army was something he would like. He was an Air Cadet for four years, so he had some idea of what the military was all about; also, his mom’s brother had gone to Royal Roads. Consequently, young Cam spent a lot of time going through his yearbooks and reading about life at military college.

So, it was no big surprise to the family when he entered Royal Roads Military College in late August 1970.

Here is how he describes his life and times from that time forward.

“I remember my travel to Royal Roads as one very, very long day.  Like many of my class, I flew Service Air to Vancouver.  Once inside the military terminal, an announcement directed all new officer cadets going to Royal Roads to proceed to the door leading to the other end of the building.  As we went through that door our lives changed forever. There were several Recruit Term Barmen who ordered us to form up in three ranks, on the double, and as a recent Air Cadet I knew what this meant, but a lot of the longhaired recruits had no idea what to do.

After a few introductory remarks, we were ordered to find our bags, put them on a truck and then get on one of the buses parked out front.  After roll call, we were off on a long bus ride to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal where we got off the buses and walked onto the ferry.  As the ferry followed its route through the islands, I expected to see Victoria around the next corner but it never came into view.  We soon arrived at Pat Bay.

It was dark as we disembarked and were directed to board another fleet of buses.  We then departed on what I remember as a very long bus ride through a series of back roads until we finally arrived at the front gate of Royal Roads Military College.  The buses went through the gate and, after a flat bit of road, we descended a long hill to the college buildings.

As we got off the buses, the rest of the Recruit Term barmen met us and they all seemed to be yelling at us to get off the bus and get into three ranks yet again.  Our names were called out with the name of the flight we were in.  I was assigned to Hudson.   We were told to find our baggage and fall into three ranks by flights.  The Hudson Cadet Flight Leader (CFL), Mr. Lesperance, said, “follow me”.  He led us into Nelson Block, up what seemed like ten flights of stairs and upon reaching the top, he turned right and down a very long hallway.  The next morning the hallway was much, much shorter and it was only three flights of stairs down to the QM Lobby.

Once in the hallway we were ordered to find our name on one of the doors, put our bags inside and fall-in at attention outside our cabins (as they called rooms at Roads).  Mr. Lesperance introduced us to Mr. Geier the Hudson Flight Deputy CFL.  We were given some basic instructions and, as it was now well after midnight, told to get to bed.  Once in bed with lights out, Mr. Lesperance and Mr. Geier marched up and down the hallway saying how Hudson was going to be the best recruit flight ever but that they had a lot of work to do to transform us civies into first year cadets.

My new life had begun and my farm boy days were left behind.

Part of Recruit Term was familiarization with the three “Environments” of the newly unified Canadian Forces.  Our introduction to the Sea Environment was a cruise aboard the HMCS McKenzie up the Strait of Juan de Fuca.   We had the run of the ship and I remember hitting my head off every hatchway and low hanging pipe.  I quickly decided a sea going life was not for me.  Our intro to the Air Environment started with a long four-hour bus ride up Vancouver Island to CFB Comox.  Our day there consisted of tours of airplanes and squadron areas but since I wore glasses, I knew I was never going to be aircrew and hence never be at the “pointy end”.  Our visit to the Land Environment was definitely good day.  We visited the 3rd Battalion, Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Work Point Barracks and saw a demonstration of an infantry attack with blanks and pyrotechnics, handled various weapons and rode in an M113 APC.  However, the true highlight of the day came when we were invited to the Officers’ Mess and served a glass of draft beer; a career in the infantry beaconed from that point on.

At Royal Roads, every cadet had an opportunity to shoot skeet and see how many clay pigeons could be hit.  Maybe I was natural at hitting the clay birds in flight, or perhaps it was because all of the shooting I had done back on the farm, but I was the top skeet shot, both of the years I was at Roads.

I graduated from RMC in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science (Applied), or as we called it, “Apple Sci”.  I remember being very impressed with the College Chief Warrant Officer, Mr. Cox (RCR), MWO Hood (PPCLI) and Sgt MacDonald (RCR) for their mature approach towards cadets and their overall professionalism.  Getting to know them helped prepare me to work with NCOs during my career as an infantry officer.

In fourth year, I was appointed as a Recruit Flight Cadet Section Commander.  This time it was my turn to meet the new recruits and escort them to their rooms.  Everything was easy for the new arrivals until Mackenzie Tower clock struck 1500 hrs, when the Cadet Wing Training Officer ordered the Class of 1978 to Fall-In.  That’s when their new life began!  It was a great experience introducing them to the military and guiding them through their first year at RMC.  The leadership experience I gained proved invaluable later on as a Commissioned Officer.

My biggest challenge was Academics.  Attaining a degree was not my key motivator for going to military college; I joined the military to become an army officer.  In third year, I failed Calculus in the winter term and, as a result, failed my year.

I repeated third year and decided to get serious about academics and discovered that if I completed all homework and submitted assignments on time, I would have no problem passing all exams.  I graduated with second-class honours.

Upon graduation, I was assigned to The Royal Canadian Regiment, and after Phase 4 Infantry, was posted to the 3rd Battalion in Petawawa.  However, my stay in Pet was cut short, and on Halloween night I flew to Germany to join 3 Canadian Mechanized Commando.  This was an infantry battalion consisting of both RCR and PPCLI officers and NCMs.  For the next three years, I had the best job a newly commissioned officer could ever have, that being commanding a Mechanized Infantry Platoon in Europe.

The high point of each year was FALLEX, which took place over a very large section of rural Bavaria.  On one REFORGER exercise, our company drove over a hundred kms, on a Sunday when military traffic on the road was verboten, to the Divisional Support Command area in the rear.  We arrived just as it was getting dark and each platoon was assigned a very large area of open farm fields to occupy.  In one sector, a Landing Zone Control Party for the “enemy”, the 82nd (US) Airborne Division, was captured.  Because the planes could not establish communications with the ground, the massive parachute drop was cancelled.

My three years in Germany were great in so many ways.  Not only did I get to see much of Europe, but also, I met Yvonne, a teacher at the base elementary school.  We have now been married for 39 years.

Over the next 21 years, Yvonne and I, with two kids in tow, moved eleven times.  Our last move was to CFB Borden where I was Commandant of the Canadian Forces Nuclear Biological and Chemical School; part of my job was commanding the Canadian Forces NBC Response Team.   The team’s role was counter-terrorism and was deployed on many training exercises and operational missions.  My five years as Commandant were definitely the highlight of my career and I left the job with a sense of accomplishment.

In 2000, after receiving a medical release, we made another, albeit shorter, move to Barrie.  I saw my future as a home renovator and took carpentry and cabinetmaking at Georgian College, and even did a bit of television.  But, I proved to be no Mike Holmes, and I missed the excitement and camaraderie of the military.  Civilian life seemed dull and without purpose.

Everything changed, however, when I read the March 2006 edition of “VERITAS”.  There, on page 55, was an advertisement for “CALIAN” with the banner “Continue to Make a Difference”.  Calian was looking for retired officers to work at the Directorate of Synthetic Environments (DLSE), in Kingston, to assist with command and staff training.

Working at DLSE, now the Canadian Army Simulation Centre, proved to be both professionally rewarding, and fun, and was a great way to rediscover Kingston.  So much so, that Yvonne and I moved to Kingston in the fall of 2010.”

How did he end up as the Class Secretary?

“At Reunion Weekend 2015, our Class Secretary announced he could no longer continue in the roll, and so, because of my close proximity to RMC, I volunteered to fill the position.”

6 Comments

  • Paul Crober

    March 26, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Pretty accurate description of our arrival at RRMC Cam and especially the recruits’ experience with the tours to the “three environments.” Very glad to hear about your successful career(s).
    All the best!!

  • Don Lovell

    March 26, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for your article Cam. Whether at Roads, Gagetown or RMC you always had a positive outlook and a sense of humour. Although the old PPCLI Officers’ Mess is gone when you are in Victoria give me a shout and we’ll get your Roads classmates together for another pint of draft beer.

  • Bill Wild

    March 26, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    I remember well the arrival At Royal Roads. It was after dark and quite foreboding. In LaSalle Flight they taught us how to make hospital corners before we were allowed to retire for the night. My mother had taught me to make hospital corners so I easily passed my first test. My mother also taught me how to change a sheet with the person resting in bed. This skill I never got to practice at RRMC. Cheers Cam. Great memories.

  • Ken Watkin

    March 28, 2018 at 6:46 am

    Cam great story. What it does not address is how your continuing connection to the College extends far beyond being Class Secretary to being the communications director of the Kingston Branch and your involvement in the Wall of Honour.